What We Think
An amazingly portable device for gaming and one that makes you thank the stars for Alienwares crazy ways.
Alienware’s computers have looked like the offspring of a Lamborghini and something from Star Trek, and the MX11 R3 is no different. In fact, its chassis, with 11-inch screen, is exactly the same as the previous year’s MX11.
It still has the vents, neon lights and spilling grilles, though there are a number of internal changes and for its price of around £750 for the i5 powered model is relatively good value. Add to this, a NDVIDIA GeForce GT540M graphics chip and a sizeable 4GB of RAM and you have the grunt to make a dent in the most graphically advanced games.
In weight terms, it is not as ultra portable in relative terms as it used to be, considering the size of the ASUS Zenbook and Mac Air. Though, at 2.1KG, it’s not impossible to lug around and is ideal for off the cuff gaming sessions.
In terms of aesthetics, nothing has changed in the Alienware MX11 R3 from the previous model. It’s still a matte black creature of the night and comes with those angular lines and neon grilles right out of science fiction. The Alien head remains on the outside, as does its position as the power button inside the machine. (changes colour and night gaming)
Though no larger than before the 11inch machine looks thicker, probably as we’re more used to the super slim ultra-portables of the day. It’s 35mm high, though the chassis shows strength, though certainly doesn’t have the Zen like minimalism that most modern machines of this size have. It’s also a lot heavier than many ultra-portables and at 2. 1KG, is nearly 800g weightier than a MacBook Air.
Saying that its matte finish and strong build mean you won’t spend most of your time hugging it for fear of a bump, or two. And we’d have no qualms about slipping it into a bag and bringing it on a bumpy ride via Boris Johnson’s TFL.
The keyboard has no numeric pad, no surprise considering it is an 11-inch machine, though keys are quite easy to get comfortable with, have the usual Alienware neon backlights and also a semi rubberised feel. Though, a little close together, they feel well-balanced and offer a sharp satisfying feel, ideal for gaming and typing. The textured touch pad is also quite nice and there’s a sense of quality, though gamers will probably want a separate mouse to hammer opponents into the grave with. As with the keyboard, the 11-inch screen is also proof that size is not always the determining factor for gaming.
For an 11.6-inch screen, it offers a 1366x768p screen with a 720p resolution, and though it’s small, it’s good for gaming. The edge-to-edge nature of the screen makes it seem larger than it actually is. There is a little glare from the glossy screen and the sweet-spot for good viewing is quite small, though two people could watch comfortably.
On screen colours are quite good though the backlight is very average, meaning gaming, or other more serious activities struggle to be performed in relative brightness with ease. On the bright side, the computer too offers the option to output images at a full HD 1080p resolution, ensuring that big-screen gaming is not beyond screen, or performance. There is also a 1.3mp camera for video calling.
This gaming is all powered by a very capable family of components. The Alienware MX11 R3 comes with an Intel i5 1.6GHz chip, which includes all the bells and whistles of the 2nd generation Sandybridge processors. In that we mean it has the Turbo Boost technology to bring unutilised chips into play when needed, as well as the Intel HD Graphics 3000 technology – though this alone is not enough. There is also 4GB of RAM available, though this can be upgraded to a whopping 16GB if you have around £1000 burning a hole.
The whistles come in the form of Nvidia’s GeForce 540M graphics card, ensuring all gaming is taken with merely a shrug of the MX11’s armour-plated shoulders. This alone powered the Alienware to a very respectable 25fps in our Crysis test at full settings, a whole 20 per cent faster than the previous version of the machine. This performance is usually the preserve of much larger and more expensive machines, and we found the mix of both chips excellent, with the Intel brain, working for fewer tasking moments and the GT540M coming in when the power was required.
This power does create some noise, though the 5.1 Klipsch speakers of the small computer are surprisingly good and drown it out nicely. The machine comes with a 320GB hard drive, which is pretty much what we’d expect; upgrades are available to larger drives if required. One of our cribs about the device is the lack of an optical drive, which we can understand to keep weighting down and as most gamers use online games, or games through other forms of media. Though we did spot a blank square around the size of a drive along the right side of the machine.
The computer though does ensure to take connections into consideration, and there are two USB3.0. ports, twin headphone sockets, a FireWire, SD/MMC, memory stick card reader, Gigabite Ethernet line and excellently both a Display port and HDMI port. The machine also has 802.11n wireless connection, as well as a dual band 802.11n as an option.
For such a powerful machine, you’d expect compensations in the battery area perhaps, but the Alienware MX11 puts up a decent
Alienware has done it once again; the MX11 R3 is an extremely powerful and ultraportable gaming laptop, that improves on the previous incarnation considerably in performance terms. It feels of quality, has a quirky design and has the innards of far larger machines allowing it the graphical prowess for some very smooth gaming.
It might get a little noisy at times and the screen may lack somewhat, but these are minor factors when you consider the pluses of this laptop, buy it and end up joyfully whiling away the nights in a room, light by its sci-fi like neon LEDs.